Giant Swallowtails are here!

caterwallinJuly 27, 2012

I've had a female Giant Swallowtail flying around the yard for the past few days (at least I think it was always the same one, but I have no way of knowing really). At first she just seemed to be flying around with no purpose in mind other than enjoying flying around. I also saw her nectaring on the Verbena bonariensis and the butterfly bush. Yesterday she was flying around the rue and gas plants but apparently was mostly investigating because she only laid one egg on the gas plant, which I collected. Today I noticed that she was flying around and she seemed to be focusing on the rue. I didn't find any on the gas plants today but found 21 eggs on the rue, and of course I had to bring all of them in! It started raining (but only lasted a few minutes) when I was almost finished looking for eggs, so there might still be a few out there. I'd have gone back out to look but didn't feel like getting all wet brushing up against the rue. I plan on going back out tomorrow and looking for some more because I suppose that she'll be back and I don't want any spiders or anything else to get to the eggs. Actually, when I went to cut off a flower head that I thought an egg was on, it started moving and I realized that it was a spider. It sure looked like an egg to me at first!

Has anyone ever noticed that different Giant Swallowtails prefer laying at different places? Sometimes I get one that likes to lay on the seed heads after the flowers are gone and it's just the green seed head. One time I had a female that liked to lay right in the middle of the seed head. She had perfect aim! :) This one prefers to lay on the yellow flowers instead of the seed heads. Almost every one that I found today was on a flower even though I have plenty of green seed heads out there. I just think it's amazing how a creature so small seems to have preferences.

Giant Swallowtails and Pipevine Swallowtails are my favorite cats to raise. I like how the Giant Swallowtail cats seem to have a face on them if you look at them head on, and I also get a kick out of their sluggishness. The reasons why I like raising Pipevine Swallowtails is because I think it's so cute how they feed in groups. I also like how when I put the actual vines in the container (as opposed to single leaves) the cats will scurry along the vines like they're really on a mission. It's funny to watch them when they meet up with each other and see who takes the high road and who takes the low road. Anyway, I just think it's great fun raising cats, especially these two kinds IMHO. I hope that everyone else is enjoying raising their cats too.

It took awhile for more than just Cabbage Whites to be showing up here, but now I finally have various types of butterflies including the CWs (almost always have them...and even planted half a dozen cabbage for them...and have cleome for them too if they choose), the Giant Swallowtail, some skippers including the Silver-spotted Skipper, Spicebush Swallowtails, the momma Monarch (that keeps laying eggs to the point where I quit collecting them because I'm determined not to be raising more than a couple dozen at a time), Wild Indigo Duskywings and Clouded Sulphurs. I also have seen Red-spotted Purples and they sure like to nectar on the butterfly bush and coneflowers this year! I didn't have many Pipevine Swallowtails this year to raise. I don't know if the female laid the eggs up too high for me to reach or if she only laid a few but I only raised five compared to my usual 100 or 200.

What kinds of butterflies are you all seeing?



Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

Had a GST leave me 3 eggs today and I got to watch her do it. Saw a viceroy in my yard for the first time since maybe 2009 (I'd have to look at my pics to confirm). And a monarch left me a bunch of eggs late in the afternoon. Had a strange skipper but it would not sit still long enough for an ID. My poly eggs started hatching. Good lep day.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2012 at 10:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Congrats on your GSTs, Cathy! Watching a PVST and a GST in a race, would be like watching the Rabbit and a Tortoise! LOL!

You have more than me - I have some RA cats, had Gorgone Checkerspots on the Sunflowers, GFs on the Passion Vine. I have 3 Females laying eggs like crazy. Have had virtually no Swallowtails this year. I had few last year thru the drought, but this year is even slimmer. Couple of Manducas on the Datura, but that's all. I am enjoying all the wildlife in the garden. Finally have hummers, some House Finches and Carolina Wrens, two pair of Cardinals, lots of Dove, Robins, and of course, the Sparrows.....grrrrrr.

Am also raising some Japanese MGs this year and they are stunning! The dayflying sphinx just love them, too.

It is so good to hear from you. I think about you and your garden a lot.


    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 7:20AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Still waiting here. I've only seen one GST all summer. I think it was a male and it only hung around for one day.

It would be hard to see a egg on a flower head. I'm surprised you were able to find so many. When I deadhead my fennel, I drop the flower heads back into the fennel clumps in case there's a BST egg or cat that I didn't see.

Kcclark - You just made me realize I haven't seen a Viceroy all summer.

I saw three Spicebush Swallowtails yesterday. Those were so plentiful last year but rare in my yard this summer until yesterday. Maybe these will make some babies. I also had a couple Pipevine Swallowtails show up, both males, several Variegated Frits and Buckeyes, two Gulf Frits, one Black Swallowtail, three Great Spangled Frits, and one male Tiger. No Monarchs and I haven't seen a Red Spotted Purple since spring I think.
I also saw a Hairstreak yesterday. That's something else that's been rare this summer.
The only thing I'm raising right now; one Tiger Swallowtail, and 7 Black Swallowtails.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 7:32AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I love your devotion to the Swallotails, Cathy! Here is a photo of the Swallotail that we just released along with the photo of it on the day I found it at the garden center. I keep checking my parsley, but haven't found any more eggs or cats.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 9:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Pretty pictures, Mostone! And it's good to hear you got giant swallowtails, Cathy! I like raising those two types of swallowtails best myself.

I've been seeing tiger, pipevine, spicebush, and palamedes swallowtails, plus a few red-spotted purples, lots of various skippers, especially long-tailed skippers and duskywings, cloudless sulphurs, sleepy oranges, and little yellows, a few gulf frits and others.

I haven't seen any viceroys this year, nor have I found any eggs/cats on my willows. Last year was the first year I'd seen any or gotten eggs/cats in years, KC - 'hope they're not getting scarce everywhere!

I'm only raising one red-spotted purple and a batch of pipevine swallowtails, but I've got a big cage full of chrysalides of various types. I've released spicebush swallowtails, giants, and pipevines recently.

I also got my first variegated frits in several years last year, but none have shown up this year.

Have fun with those giants, Kathy!


    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 10:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Apparently I spoke too soon about not finding anymore cats... How old does this one look? Do you think it will eclose this summer?

    Bookmark   July 29, 2012 at 12:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

kc, Glad to hear that the GST left you some eggs. It seems like they start out slow and then after a few days they really go gangbusters. The female was here again today laying more eggs. Oh, I think about 2009 was the last time that I saw a Viceroy too, either that or 2010 but I know for sure that none was here last year. Good luck with your cat raising. I've never raised any Polys.

Susan, Ha, yeah, that's a good way to describe the PVS and GST in a race! :-D It was slow here for the longest time in the way of butterflies, but now they're finally showing up here and they're so fun to watch! I'd love to see some Gorgone Checkerspots! You're lucky that you get those and Gulf Fritillaries. I plant passionvines but I'm almost certain that I'll never see any frits on them other than VFs.
I think about you a lot too. You ought to see how my pussytoes and pipevines have grown...many many times their original size! They feed lots of cats, and as a matter of fact my son was walking past the pipevine today and spotted a bunch of little piggies, and now I also have 22 PVS to raise. Oh, and counting the 27 GST eggs that I collected today (mostly off the gas plants), I have 56 GSTs to raise. When I have GSTs and PVSs to raise, the Monarchs take a back seat, but I do have several dozen of those too.

Christie, I hope that you soon get some GSTs to raise. It is actually pretty hard for me to spot eggs on the rue flower heads. I have to look out over my glasses or else take them off (gotta love bifocals). It takes me pretty long to comb through the rue and guess what...I'm itching again! Arg! I even washed my arms real good right after I came in, but it doesn't seem to have done anything. I also found eggs on the gas plants (actually a lot more on those today than on the rue), and maybe I'm allergic to those too.
Ooh, lucky you to be raising a Tiger Swallowtail! I only had one of those one time and it ended up dying. I read later on where someone said they mist theirs, so if I ever get any again, I'll try that. It was nice reading about all that you have there.

mostone, Nice pictures! I think Black Swallowtails are very pretty! I just had 3 pupate that I found in the rue when I was looking for Giant Swallowtail eggs a few days ago. Congrats on the BST find! It will probably eclose this year yet, but swallowtails are so unpredictable that I can't say for sure.

Sherry, It sounds like the butterflies sure love your place! That's nice that you get such a wide variety. I haven't seen any Viceroys here this year either or last year. I also had Variegated Frits last year but not this year. Here I planted a whole bunch of violas for them (they loved them last year), but now they're pretty much spent. So if the VFs show up, they probably won't have much to eat. I can feed them passionvine leaves though.
Yes, I most certainly will have fun raising the Giants! Now I also have about 2 dozen PVS to raise that we found on the A. macrophylla today. I also have several dozen Monarch cats and could have many dozen more if I'd collect them more regularly, but some things just can't be done and so something has to fall by the wayside. I figure what I raise is already more than what would have made it on their own. Almost every medium to large Monarch cat that I found and brought in this year had been parasitized by those darn tachinid flies. I brought them in just on the off chance that they were okay and also so that I could destroy the fly pupae in case the Monarchs weren't okay.
It was nice hearing about others' butterfly adventures. I always enjoy reading about the kinds of butterflies that other people have in their yards/gardens.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2012 at 7:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

When I was watering my 3 small potted wafer ash trees today, I noticed that the female GST left eggs on all of those too! I have them right up against the house, but she managed to find them. She also laid eggs on the rue plant that I have right next to the house. Ever since I noticed the GST laying eggs late last week I've been looking for eggs on my 14 rue plants up in the yard further and my 7 gas plants that are also up there, but I guess I'll have to start checking these things that are close to the house now too. Actually, I probably ought to carry the wafer ash pots in on our back porch because the trees are so small that they already don't have enough foliage on them to support the 8 eggs that are on them, so I don't think that it would be a good idea for her to keep laying on them. Of course, I have the option of cutting the eggs off of the leaves if she would lay more and raise them on the rue and/or gas plants.
At first, the GST preferred the rue to lay eggs on, but yesterday I found way more eggs on the gas plants than on the rue, so I guess she must be fickle. lol

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 3:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Sounds like you got a big egg dump, Cathy! I just hope you have enough food, whatever type, to feed all those caterpillars!

Good luck!


    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 4:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ha yeah, egg dump is right, Sherry! :) Oh, don't worry, I have enough rue to feed hundreds upon hundreds of Giant Swallowtails. I'm not sure if I want to let some feed on the wafer ash trees (I mean of the eggs that are already one them) or if it would kill the trees since they're not quite a foot tall.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 4:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

I've been meaning to post the link below for a while but failed. Doing now! :D

I've got one GST cat left (others died, refusing to eat yellowing leaves). It is on a potted wafer ash in my garage. Tree has six leaves left (rest turned yellow and fell off). I was putting it outside during the day but the wind blew off leaves 7, 8, and 9 so I cannot risk that anymore.

Wafer ash I planted at my kids' school had 8 eggs laid on it in September. Only one cat made it to 4th instar. Looked at the tree a couple weeks ago. Leaves were all turning yellow. I thought about taking the cat home but didn't. Went back 4 days later. All but 1 leaf had blown off the tree. No cat to be found. :(

This is the second year in a row I've had late GSTs. Anyone at my latitude (central Ohio) or farther north have experience with how late rue or prickly ash keep their leaves? My wafer ashes are not lasting long enough for GST needs so I'm looking for late season alternatives.

Here is a link that might be useful: Giant Swallowtail Butterfly Observed in August

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 9:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
terrene(5b MA)

Caterwallin, that is great that you had a good year with the Giant Swallowtails. I actually saw a GST on 3 occasions this summer, got pictures of 2 visits. They aren't usually active in this state, but apparently this has been a good flight year in Mass.

I looked on the Rue plants throughout the summer (they are from your seeds!), found some BST eggs but no GST eggs, at far as I could recognize.

Kcclark, the Ruta graveolens is still doing extremely well, very bushy and green. It is obviously frost hardy because it wasn't touched by the hard frost we had 2 weeks ago. I think it could work as a great late season host plant in zone 5-6.

Papilio cresphontes, July 31st, it was a female and she really liked the Monarda 'Claire Grace':

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 2:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

kc, I hope that the Giant Swallowtail that you have left yet makes it since it's refusing to eat. If you have rue, I'd try feeding it that. My rue here is still green even after we've had a few frosts. There were even some Black Swallowtail cats out there that made it through a freeze just fine. I have fine brought them in. I was feeding 8, but 2 have pupated. The six that are left eating are a fairly big size and so should pupate fairly soon. I'm feeding them rue. I haven't had Giant Swallowtails here for a few months now and I have several pupae that will be overwintering along with some BST pupae and PVS pupae.

I had a pretty good year with the Giant Swallowtails that made it, but I had a lot of tiny ones die, and I still haven't a clue what's up with that. That's great that you got to see some GSTs! I hope that you get some eggs/cats some day. I'm glad that you got some rue plants going from the seeds.


    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 7:15PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
In another thread ladobe wrote: >Sleeving in the...
Any one ready for spring?
I'm so done with winter! I'm ready for spring . This...
Jacob BergZone4b-5aMN
Lemon Mint Monarda - Annual, Perennial? Reseeds?
I feel like this question could be posted in 5 different...
Michaela .:. thegarden@902 .:. (Zone 5b - Iowa)
Host Plants by Butterfly species
Well, everything is new here. Will post this to see...
Any one have Ptelea trifoliata?
Common name is wafer ash or hop tree. I would like...
Jacob BergZone4b-5aMN
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™